Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written to you, but life has been in the way.
On December 7th, I moved to a different city 40 minutes away from where I lived. I started 2 new volunteer jobs. And my father has been hospital.
The move was great. Didn’t realize how unhappy I was until I moved. Decided to change to a different city so I could begin a new life with new adventures. I picked Brantford and found a wonderful house. I am so much happier here and Kira loves the big backyard.
Since I know no one here, the best thing I could do was volunteer. I work at the Brantford General Hospital in the ER (emergency) waiting room. I go once a week for 3 hours. (Noon to 3 pm on Wednesdays.) It’s a wonderful opportunity. I don’t do much but help people find their loved one, bring people water or chairs, do errands for the nurses, and bring people lunch.
But these simple tasks are appreciated. Every time I have to interact with someone and help them in some way, they give me a smile and say thank you. That’s all I need and I’m so glad to help. I do come home exhausted but was great to get out of the house.
And I found the perfect volunteer opportunity with the Grand Rivers Community Health Centre. My job is to interview all 80 volunteers and write their profile. The Centre will use them for newsletters and on their website. Talk about a great opportunity for me eh? I’m really enjoying interviewing and meeting everyone.
Then there was my father who is 84 with pneumonia. The doctors and nurses had us scared because they said he was going to die in hours or days. Well he didn’t die but his lungs are gone. He has to remain on oxygen for the rest of his life. While he was in hospital, mom was going for lunch and then for dinner to help him. I returned to Hamilton for a few days and stayed with my mom to help. I went in for dinner so she didn’t have to go in twice.
He’s now in a rehab facility in a good retirement home. It’s much easier and closer for mom. He is well taken care of there so he doesn’t need my mother more than once a day for assorted things. He is much better but his progress is slow. He is there for at least 3 months. After that? Who knows.
So as you can see, I’ve been busy. I’ve missed writing to you but just haven’t felt like writing. I started a few blogs but never finished them. My 7th novel is on chapter 13. I know what I want to write but I just don’t feel like writing. I’m kind of burnt out after writing and publishing 6 books in 3 years.
So here I am writing to you wondering if you’ve missed my blogs or wondering what’s happening in my life.
Would you like to hear more?
Any way, I’m very happy now. I love my new house and it’s in a great, quiet neighbourhood. Met a few of the neighbours and they are lovely people. Brantford is a town of 94,000 so everything is close. I’m enjoying exploring the area and finding places and stores.
I hope you’ve noticed that I haven’t been blogging or active on the various necessary sites. I’m sorry. I hope you’ve missed my words. I've missed talking to you.
Life has taken over. There is so much going on. I must sell my home and I want to move to a different town but I’m having problems finding a suitable home to rent. Many people seem interested in living in that town so good places are dear.
And lots to do when you decide to move. Luckily, I’ve moved many times in my life so it’s old hat to me. Between the time I left my parents’ house at 20 until the present day, I’ve lived in around 30 different houses or apartments. I know how to move.
Typically, I’m a very organized person. I love everything in order and to plan my life. I work out all the details in advance so there’s no stress. I’m also an avid packer and I enjoy going through my belongings. I spent the weekend going through boxes of old papers, bills, and documents. One box had papers from 2004. About time I got to it eh?
I guess I’m a little burnt out from writing. I self-published 5 novels in 2 years. That’s a lot of work. I’m just not interested in writing. I have a new novel (a modernization of the Book of Esther from the Bible). I’m on chapter 13. I know what I want to write but I just can’t seen to get the words flowing.
This blog is the first thing I’ve been able to write in months. I hope you can understand my predicament. I’m hoping once I move, I’ll begin writing again.
If it weren’t for movies, I would have gone insane years ago. They are my muse, my inspiration and my focus. As soon as I wake up, I begin my day with a movie. I pick one according to my mood. I always have one playing in the background even when I write. Most movies I have seen many times so I don’t have to watch to follow it.
I can lift up my eyes at any point and watch the TV screen providing a break from the concentration. I need the background noise to help me get through the day. Writing can be a lonely career and the dog doesn’t speak English. I’ve tried to teach her but she’s stubborn.
Movies help me through every mood. I have collected over 300 DVDs as well as subscribing to the movie channels and Netflix therefore lots of choices. I can easily find a movie to match any mood I’m in. And I have lots of moods.
My favourite movies are the Shawshank Redemption, Hunt for Red October, Usual Suspects and Apollo 13. I enjoy movies with a mostly male cast. These are great movies and can easily inspire me to write. I also love comedy and enjoy Kevin Kline, Jim Carrey and Martin Lawrence movies.
Tom Hanks is my favourite actor. I’ve been watching him ever since Bosom Buddies, a comedic series beginning his career. I’ve seen most of his movies as well as the movies of Meryl Streep. She is my favourite actress. She’s just brilliant and can imitate anyone.
If I had a chance, I would thank all the directors, actors and crew for making movies. Thank them for helping me through life and giving me the strength to carry on.
She loved to sit on my lap and purred loudly when she was patted or brushed.
People say cats are difficult to introduce into a new home. Not Emma. She was moved into probably 20 different places. Upon entering each new home, I set up her stuff and put her in her litter box so she knew where it was. Then she would tour the new place checking out everything. When done, she would curl up somewhere and sleep. She never required more of an adjustment.
I adopted Emma from the Huntsville SPCA (rescue/pound). The shelter had put some cats in cages outside so they could get some fresh air and sun. I saw Emma immediately and knew she was the one for me. She was tiny and ever so sweet at 6 months of age. She was full of energy and cuddled with me.
In 1995, I was living in an apartment in Toronto and I wanted a pet. I couldn’t look after a dog in such a setting so settled on a cat. My apartment was on the 5th floor of a building at St. George and Bloor, downtown Toronto. I had a balcony and Emma liked going out there.
But one day she fell off. I found myself looking for her and she wasn’t in the apartment. I looked over the balcony and I could see people pointing to something. I ran downstairs and found Emma on the window ledge. She had fallen 5 stories but she wasn’t too bad off. She had trouble jumping up for a while but she survived the fall. I was so happy.
When I got Kira, I felt so bad for Emma. She was terrified her and stayed under the bed for 3 months. Then it took another 3 months for her to leave the bedroom. Must have taken 3 years before she would walk across the living room floor. But then Kira and Emma became the best of friends and Emma had no further fear of Kira. Emma would walk right by Kira’s nose. Sometimes Emma would be on my lap and Kira would jump up on me too. That was fun.
But now Emma is dead. It feels so weird not to have her in the house. I’m not getting another cat so donating all her stuff to the Hamilton SPCA. I’m so glad I never have to clean another litter box. So tired of that. And there are other small benefits. I can leave my backdoor open all day so Kira can go in and out, but I would close it around 9 pm so Emma didn’t get out and then be outside when I wanted to go to bed. Now that Emma is no longer here, I leave the door open until I go to bed.
I will never forget Emma. She was a great pet and she had a good life.
Hug your pets for me,
Many people have passed through my life. I may have met them in school, at the train station, bus stop or youth hostel. And there are some I’d like to be in contact with again. Here are three:
When I was 13 years old, my best friend was Deepti Gupta. Her mother was a wonderful cook and they invited me to dinner many times. Her family also included me in social Indian events and special holidays. I loved being her friend. I remember Deepti as a really sweet girl who was always smiling. We discussed travelling to India to visit her family but, being as we were only 13, our parents wouldn’t let us go. Unfortunately, her family moved to Ottawa and I never saw her again.
When I reached Townsville, Australia, in 1993, I had just left a private yacht. We had sailed from Sydney to Cairns. I took the bus to Townsville and went right to a nice B&B which had been recommended to me. The owner was a lovely older lady and she greeted me upon arrival. I asked for a single room but she wanted me to share a room with a nice Swiss girl who had just arrived alone.
But I said, "No thanks. I don’t want to share." I had just left close quarters with 2 people for a month so I wanted to be alone. However, the owner insisted I share a room with her. After a while, I gave up fighting and agreed to share. She told me Ruth could be found lying on a towel sunning herself in the backyard all alone.
After dropping my knapsack in the room, I sought out Ruth. From the moment we met, we became the best of friends. Her name was Ruth Mann and she’s from Switzerland. We spent the next two days together touring the area. I would really like to find her again and go visit her. Love to know how her life has gone.
I spent the first 5 years of my life in Brantford, Ontario, where my brother was born. My best friend was my next-door neighbour Barbara Bragg. She was a year older but we were always together. I have such good memories of her. After we moved to Hamilton, Barbara and I visited back and forth a few times but that didn’t last long as we got busy with our lives.
In Barbara’s basement hung this wonderful map of Canada with 4 of Neilson’s candy bars on the corners. It’s huge covering a wall. The map’s date is 1950 and it has all the old names for places in the country. I loved that map and begged the Braggs to let me have it. I don’t remember them giving it to me but I’ve always had it. It now hangs in my bedroom in a treasured spot.
If you know Deepti Gupta, Ruth Mann or Barbara Bragg, please let them know I’m looking for them. They are all probably married and have a new surname but I would give anything to be in contact with them again.
Andi Cumbo-Floyd www.andilit.com is my developmental editor and I requested that she write a guest blog about what she has done for me. Below is her reply.
I love Patty Lesser. I need to start with that, not because this is her blog but because it’s true. I love her as a person AND as a writer. She has one of the best storytelling minds I’ve ever seen. (You have read her books, right? Feel free to go get them now. I’ll wait.)
I have the honor of being Patty’s editor, and so I get to read her books first. (I know – it’s okay to be jealous.) So I’ve had the privilege of working with Patty as she grows as a writer, and in that time, we’ve worked hard to make her books even better . . .
To improve her work – and EVERY writer has room to improve, we’ve focused on three things, three ways that every fiction writer can improve their work. Here you go:
Choose a point of view and be true to it. If you decide that the best viewpoint from which to tell your story is in the mind of a 38-year-old monk who is narrating the story, then that monk needs to tell every bit of the story. You can’t suddenly have a 6-year-old girl that he sees on the street in Singapore share her thoughts because the monk can’t know what she’s thinking. You have to wed yourself to the monk and then use other tools – description, dialogue, internal monologue – to get across what we need to know about that young girl.
Remember that your characters have bodies. It’s really easy to get all heady in our writing, to have our characters do a lot of thinking and talking and forget that they have bodies that move. So be sure to incorporate movement, especially in the sections of dialogue. Have them move an arm or walk a certain way. Make them tilt a head or lean away from the person to whom they are speaking. Embody them, and they will live more fully for your readers.
Follow your story, not the idea you have for your story. This advice can sound like a lot of hokum if you haven’t yet experienced the fact that your characters have full lives of their own, lives that don’t necessarily succumb to your will. But they do – and if they don’t, maybe spend more time with them to hear their histories, find out their favorite brand of chocolate, and consider whether their cars are disasters or models of cleanliness that belong in showrooms. Once you know your characters, you have to let them live and do things that might go against your plan for the story. Those new paths are always going to be more rich than anything you’ve set out for them because that’s how life works – it’s not controllable or predictable.
So be like Patty – try out those things if you don’t already do them, and then let us know how they work for you in a comment below.
Attended at the Chapters store in Oakville on Saturday (April 23) for a signing event. For the first time, I actually had people lining up to meet me. I sold 7 books in the first 30 minutes. People were lovely and treated me with great interest and respect. Of course, I had a couple of rude people who gave me a dirty look or said something snoddy as they passed my table.
All in all it was a lovely time. I had some really great chats and I was open and honest which seemed to sell more books. It’s definitely a bonus having 5 books of different genres for sale. Usually, if someone showed interest, they found one to buy.
It was also a very pleasant store. Staff were friendly. Laura, the manager who was in charge of me, was friendly and efficient. She had everything ready for me and checked on me several times throughout the day.
I’m sure you’re all wondering how many I sold. Well I sold 13 books and made $143. That money goes to paying off what I paid to buy the books. Since I self-publish, I have to pay for my own copies. Each book costs about $4 and with shipping another $3. So each book cost me $7 and I sell them for $20. The bookstore takes 45% so I make $11 a book or a $4 profit. Not bad eh?
I’m very lucky to have my best friend and next door neighbour drive me to all my signings. I love to drive around town but I’m terrified to drive on the highway. Just can’t do it. When I told that to Miriam, she offered to drive. Now, its become a bit of a tradition and something we can do together. These Chapters stores are usually in big store centres with lots of great places to shop. While I’m selling, Miriam goes shopping. She loves to shop and always has a few bags of stuff when we get home.
Miriam has been driving me in her car and I would pay her gas. Then she mentioned Friday that her airconditioning unit was broken and she worried the day would be hot and she can’t stand the heat. So she asked if we could take my car. I’m like duh and hit my hand on my forehead. Of course we should be taking my car. Miriam is an excellent driver and my car is easy to drive so of course we should be taking my car. I fill up the car when I want so no worries about gas. Also I should be putting the wear and tear on my car not hers.
We both couldn’t believe how well everything worked by taking my car. Now I can leave my books in the car and not have to leave them in the house. This is much easier for me. I’m so happy.
My next signing is not until Saturday, May 14th at the Erin Mills Power Centre and am looking forward to it.
What are your signing experiences?
After my last blog, I received numerous questions about book signings. Here are 9 steps to hosting a successful signing.
Number 1: All you have to do to obtain a signing event is to call the bookstore. Ask for the person in charge of consignment and events. Usually, it’s pretty easy to find that person and get them on the phone. You’ll express an interest in holding a signing at their store. The person will ask you to send her an email about your books with available dates.
Number 2: As soon as you get off the phone, write a good email. State your purpose: Further to our telephone conversation this afternoon, I’m writing to request a signing event at your store. I enjoy shopping there and I think it would be a great place to sell my books.
Signings are usually held on Saturdays from 1 to 4 pm.
Describe your novels adding any reviews. Attach book covers. After which say you are looking forward to attending at their store.
Number 3: Using their form, fill in your information, their information and list of your books with the ISBN numbers. Send this to them with your introductory email as well as in an email on the Monday before your signing. They will appreciate your efficiency.
If you can, have all the books cost the same price. This will make it easier for them to create the stickers.
Number 4: Write a reminder email on the Monday before the event. Send the Book Contract to them again.
Number 5: Arrive to the signing at least 10 minutes early. Enter the store and ask for the proper person. He/she will arrive promptly and provide you with a table, chair, bookstands and bar code stickers to place on your books.
One word of advice: bring a pillow. Some of those chairs are rather hard and sitting there for 3 hours without a pillow will cause a sore butt.
Next, arrange your books on the table, get yourself settled and look for that line to induce people to approach you. I say, "Can I interest you in a novel?" Then I ask, "What do you like to read?"
You can say anything to entice them over but don’t talk money. Get them interested in what you have written.
Number 6: Bring at least 10 copies of each book. If you have bookmarks or business cards, bring them to hand out to people.
P.S. If you can go with someone, that will help. My best friend drives me to all my signings. She helps me set up, gets me a coffee, comes around to look after my books when I need the washroom, and she drives me home (we are next door neighbours). I’m pretty tired after selling myself for 3 hours so I’m thrilled to be able to just sit back and relax and let her deal with the traffic.
Number 7: As soon as you can after the signing, prepare an Invoice stating their address, your address, the date of the signing, and the date of the invoice. Then write how many books were sold and at what price with whatever percentage the bookstore takes on each book and then the total amount sold.
It looks like this: Items sold: 9 books at $20 each at 55% (the store takes 45%) = $11.00. Amount owed: $99.00
Number 8: As soon as you can, write a thank you email and include the invoice.
Number 9: Send a thank you card through snailmail thanking them for hosting your signing and their assistance. This is always a nice gesture and would help achieve further signings at their store.
Hope this answers your questions but, if it doesn’t, please leave a comment and let me know.
On Saturday, April 9th, I began my signing season. For the next couple of months, I hold signings at various bookstores between here and Toronto. I do this every spring and fall. I don’t do signings in the winter because the weather is too unpredictable or in July and August because bookstores aren’t as busy.
Now that I have 5 novels to sell, I wondered if that would help sales. I have been doing signings for two years now. The first year I just sold Locker Rooms and Shall We Chat? No one was interested in my chat book but sold a few of Locker Rooms.
The second year, I included That Truthful Place and A Discerning Heart. I sold more of the kids book than the other. But having a bigger selection was better. Some people bought two books.
This year, I have added Devouring Time and The Perfect Hand. I found I received more respect from people when they asked, "Did you write all these?" People were also impressed with the range of my novels, such a variety of choices.
My first signing was held at the Indigo Burlington from 1 to 4 pm. The store was busy with lulls at times. Quite a number of people were interested in my books but a few said they don’t read fiction or they have a pile of books to read.
The only thing I dislike hearing is: "I’ll be right back." Lots of people say they just want to brose a bit more and then they will return. They never return. I wish they would just say, "Not interested," instead of giving me hope that they will return.
But I was very lucky Saturday and I sold 9 books making me a profit of $99. (The store receives 45% of the book value.) I was so happy. People responded well and it’s definitely a bonus to offer 5 different novels. Some lovely people bought a book just to support a local author. I love it when people do that. I appreciate it so much.
My next signing is on Saturday, April 23rd, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Oakville Chapters, 240 Leighhand, Unit 244, Oakville, Ontario. I hope anyone in the area will come out and say hello.